In a statement responding to this report, Samsung’s representative said a sample size of 45 female workers from a grand total of 100,000 employees (4,000 of whom are currently pregnant) is insufficient and that IPEN’s allegations are baseless.
In early November, a report conducted by Sweden-based non-profit organisation IPEN, made baseless allegations that Samsung was skirting labour safety regulation, based on the health records of 45 female workers at two Samsung factories in Vietnam.
Samsung Electronics operates two cell phone factories in Bac Ninh and Thai Nguyen provinces in northern Vietnam, which produce around half of all the cell phones that Samsung supplies to the global market.
The factories, which have over 100,000 employees, made $36 billion last year, accounting for 68 per cent of all revenue from the country's electronics industry, which is the highest grossing sector in Vietnam.
“There may be confusions between the factories in Bac Ninh, Thai Nguyen, and our semiconductor production line in Korea. In Vietnam, workers only do assembly to make mobile phones—there are no stages when they come in direct contact with toxic chemicals. Additionally, we do not use any toxic chemical that could damage human health. Detergents like alcohol, which are used to clean equipment, do not damage health,” Ryu Kil Sang, the representative of Samsung Electronics Vietnam, was quoted on vnexpress.net
There are over 100,000 employees in the two factories, 4,000 of whom are pregnant. “A 45-template survey states that miscarriage rates are high without publishing specifics, so I do not know how many cases there are and how serious the problem could be. The sample size of 45 workers is too small to draw convincing conclusions,” he emphasised.
As for allegations that workers have to stand throughout the shifts and have no time to rest, Ryu Kil Sang said that standing or sitting is up to the working stage. Workers have a ten-minute breake every two hours and one hour for lunch or dinner. They are allowed to go to the restroom anytime they want.
In 2017, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) inspected the two Samsung Electronics Vietnam factories in Thai Nguyen and Bac Ninh. According to the ministry’s findings, all employees signed labour contracts, bought social insurance, unemployment insurance, and health insurance.
The company complies with regulations on resting periods, holidays, and the Tet holiday. Employees’ salary is not less than the regional minimum wage, and there are annual health checks for normal labourers and two a year for those doing dangerous tasks and the elderly.
MOLISA discovered three violations at Samsung's two factories, far below the common rate of 10-12 in the electronics sector. Samsung's violations had to do with exceeding the overtime limit by 30 hours each month, inappropriate shift allocations, and a lack of hygiene training for over 13,600 workers.
"The violations claimed by the IPEN report are non-existent, based on the ministry's evaluations," Nguyen Tien Tung, chief inspector of MOLISA told vneconomy.vn in an interview, adding that the ministry has no plans to inspect Samsung Vietnam in the wake of IPEN's allegations.
Tung said that exceeding the overtime limit is a common violation among foreign invested companies and the ministry has asked the government to extend the limit to 600 hours for export businesses.
Samsung was Vietnam’s biggest exporter last year, earning nearly $40 billion in revenue from shipping electronics and contributing 23 per cent to Vietnam’s total export revenue. It currently runs six factories in Vietnam and exports products to 52 overseas markets, according to vnexpress.net.